No. 24 Arizona State begins Pac-12 play against Colorado
Sep 20, 2019, 2:00 PM
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
No. 24 Arizona State succeeded in suppressing Michigan State’s revenge plot last week. On Saturday, the Sun Devils will look to get some payback of their own against Colorado in Tempe.
The Buffaloes defended their home turf with a 28-21 victory over ASU last October, but they will be playing in less desirable conditions this time.
They have never won a game at Sun Devil Stadium, 0-5 all-time.
Entering its first Pac-12 game, ASU’s defense has been one of the best in the country, having allowed just 21 points in three games. But now, it faces an offense that put up 494 yards against it last year, and has a lot of the same firepower.
What: Arizona State (3-0) vs. Colorado (2-1)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: ESPN 620 AM
CU came back from the dead in its Week 2 matchup with No. 25 Nebraska.
It trailed by 10 entering the fourth, but then showed its full capabilities on offense. The Buffaloes scored 24 points in the quarter and snuck away with a 37-34 overtime win.
Colorado quarterback Steven Montez threw for two touchdowns in the fourth, including a 96-yard flea-flicker to K.D. Nixon.
One week later, its offense was kept in check by Air Force, and CU’s defense could not hold on. The Buffaloes fell 30-23.
Colorado has a lopsided offense with a very talented quarterback and receiving core.
CU is most dangerous as an Air Raid, and wideout Laviska Shenault was a problem for ASU last season. He grabbed 13 catches for 127 yards and two scores.
He and Nixon create a formidable duo.
The problem is that the Buffaloes struggle to run the ball (89th in the country in rushing yards per game) and their pass protection has shown holes (five sacks and six quarterback hits allowed over the last two weeks).
Its biggest obstacle, though, is its own defense.
CU allowed 474 yards per game in nonconference play, the 14th-most in FBS.
Teams have been able to run at will against Colorado. It allows 299 yards per game on the ground.
Also, the defense has not been able to stop long drives, so the CU time of possession is among the worst in Division 1.
How ASU matches up
The Sun Devils have not gotten their running attack going.
Halfback Eno Benjamin has not been as formidable this season as in 2018, mainly due to a very young and shifting offensive line. But, with the ineptitude of CU’s run-stopping, perhaps Saturday is the time for a breakout performance.
That would take some pressure off of quarterback Jayden Daniels. If the Devils can run the ball this week, it opens up the play-action for the freshman and could provide big run opportunities for him.
If ASU can put together long drives and keep the CU passing attack on the sidelines, it can have strong control of the game.
On the other side of the ball, the Sun Devils should be able to neutralize the run. Their rush defense has been solid to start the year, and CU is not a run-heavy team.
ASU’s secondary has the biggest challenge of the day.
It got carved up last year in Boulder and will face the same threats.
But, the unit has consistently improved since defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales’ arrival last season, and has more depth than in 2018.
Defensive backs Cam Phillips (redshirt) and Jack Jones (transfer) did not play in Boulder last year. They now lead the team in pass breakups (three) along with senior cornerback Kobe Williams. Phillips has ASU’s lone interception.
If the pass rush can get the upper hand against CU’s largely inexperienced offensive line, that would give ASU’s secondary some help as well.
The game will be won or lost by Colorado’s pass attack. If the Sun Devils can neutralize it, winning becomes simple. If not, then this could be ASU’s first shootout of the year, and first of Daniels’ career.